Piles may be classified as long or short in accordance with the L/d ratio of the pile (where L = length, d = diameter of pile). A short pile behaves as a rigid body and rotates as a unit under lateral loads. The load transferred to the tip of the pile bears a significant proportion of the total vertical load on the top. In the case of a long pile, the length beyond a particular depth loses its significance under lateral loads, but when subjected to vertical load, the frictional load on the sides of the pile bears a significant part to the total load.

Piles may further be classified as vertical piles or inclined piles. Vertical piles are normally used to carry mainly vertical loads and very little lateral load. When piles are inclined at an angle to the vertical, they are called batter piles or raker piles. Batter piles are quite effective for taking lateral loads, but when used in groups, they also can take vertical loads.

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